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Warmth of the bluegrass festivalTell North Platte what you think
Photo by George Lauby
Little Roy and Lizzie
Photo by George Lauby
Kathy Kallick Band
Photo by George Lauby
Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver (tap on image to enlarge)
Photo by George Lauby
Kathy Kallick's band gives a workshop.
Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
Carr Family Cowboy Band, showcase winners. From left: Walter, Abby and Ron.

Despite the weather, there was warmth in the air at the 17th annual County Bluegrass Festival at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.

The heaters kept the arena warm and the music was lively, if not downright hot at times.

Attendance was on par at the annual festival, even though the wind chill dipped below freezing and snowflakes blew on brisk winds.

“We had a very good turnout, especially considering the weather,” organizer Countney Ewald said.

The festival brings the best bluegrass bands and fans to North Platte from across the United States.

“I try to hire the biggest and best,” Ewald said. “In this area, we tend not to get the best bluegrass music, so I want to give people the chance to hear them without having to drive to another state -- or two."

The Kathy Kallick band came from California, where they are a leading force of traditional West Coast bluegrass.

Little Roy, 75, and Lizzy (Long) came from Georgia.

The Baker Family came from Missouri.

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, the best vocal group for seven years in the International Bluegrass Music Association, came from Tennessee.

The individual band members don’t always confine themselves to bluegrass shows. Many are music teachers and also back up performers with more name recognition.

For instance, Kallick’s fiddler, Annie Staninec, is also a member of folk-rock legend Rod Stewart’s band. Kallick’s mandolin player Tom Bekeny once played with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Her bassist Cary Black has been a top performer since the 1960s, when he played with Glen Yarbourgh and Petula Clark.

In the audience, bluegrass music followers like to sit and listen, somewhat like an audience at a symphony, and show their appreciation with applause at the end of each song.

But some fans are less reserved.

“I really dig this music,” said Big Dan Kohler, a North Platte musician who came to listen Saturday, “but I can’t sit still for it.” Kohler was on his feet, tapping his toes and swaying to the music.

The three-day festival had plenty to do – including a craft show and amateur jam groups, plus a kitchen full of food.

Some of the top performers slipped away to do a show at North Platte schools. On the grounds, some conducted workshops for ticket holders, talking about their lives, music and performing techniques.

In a showcase competition of amateur bands on Saturday morning, the Carr Family Cowboy Band of Whitman finished first. The judges enjoyed their western music. Westwind Connection, a group of musicians from northern Colorado that has been playing at care homes for 35 years, was the runner-up.

And, local musicians got to get up on the stage too.

In a band scramble, musicians who came to watch and learn tossed their names into a hat. The names were drawn to create four bands. Each band came up with a name and performed two songs before the judges Saturday morning.

The winners were the Flatrock Scramblers -- Dan Cook, Fred Larson and Marcia Claesson.

Ewald thanked all the sponsors for their support, including the Lincoln County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Husker Radio KX 104, True Country 102,1, Coyote Country 105.3, The North Platte Bulletin, The North Platte Telegraph and Jim and Gloria Robinson.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 4/30/2017
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